EU envoy rues Mindanao's bad publicity

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/29 November)—European Union’s top diplomat in the country bemoaned the portrayal of Mindanao as a “land of chaos” despite its economic potentials.

Ambassador Alistair H. Macdonald, head of the Delegation of the European Union to the Philippines, stressed there is a lack of awareness about the general condition of Mindanao, known as the “Land of Promise.”

“Too often, the international community only becomes aware of Mindanao through reports of the most recent violent incident, or through photos of bodies under banana leaves,” the envoy told Mindanao journalists in a peace reporting workshop last week in Manila.

“And too often, even public opinion in the Philippines is remarkably ill-informed about Mindanao, apart from the latest atrocity, or the latest evidence of appalling misgovernance by some local warlord (sic),” he added.

Macdonald urged media practitioners to dedicate their efforts to helping promote peace in Mindanao, to helping promote good governance in Mindanao, and to helping the public across the country and internationally to be aware of the roots of conflict and the potentials for peace in Mindanao.

The EU has extended nearly P10 billion in a span of two decades to peace and development efforts in Mindanao.

Lawyer Mary Ann M. Arnado, secretary general of the Mindanao People’s Caucus, a grouping of peace advocates in Mindanao which helped organized the peace reportage workshop, had earlier called for responsible media reporting of Mindanao in a bid to prevent hostilities from escalating.

She said that positive developments in Mindanao must also be highlighted to further attract investments to the area that would alleviate incidence of poverty.

As part of the EU’s effort to help Mindanao, Macdonald said they have been involved in areas such as upland development, agrarian reform, environmental protection, food security, and health services.

In these fields, the EU has poured some €105.0 million (approximately P6.3 billion, at current exchange rates), he said.

The EU has also extended at least €44 million (approximately P2.6 billion) to support the victims of the conflict between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, he said.

This includes assistance for livelihood support and reintegration assistance for the internally displaced persons.

The EU has also increasingly become active in the peace process itself, being a member of the International Monitoring Team, a truce keeping mission in the government-MILF conflict.

Macdonald said the western economic bloc approved two months ago a funding worth P180 million to cover the cost of their participation in the IMT and to support the work of some non-government organizations in the civilian component of the international truce monitoring team.

The EU is leading the Humanitarian, Rehabilitation and Development Component of the Malaysian-led IMT. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)